How To Declutter Your Life

August 21, 2014

Just thinking about my upcoming move to a new apartment has me giddy with excitement. Before you think I’ve totally lost it, let me be clear that I’m not exactly overjoyed about cramming my entire life into a few cardboard boxes. Instead, I look forward to finally doing a thorough sweep of all of my worldly possessions. I see moving as an opportunity to purge my physical and mental space of all of the ever-growing piles of stuff and clutter that have somehow crept in and taken over my home (I swear, I have no idea where those 10 maxi dresses came from!). For me, the simple act of tossing unwanted clutter into the trash is a triumphant moment of order over chaos. When everything is in its place, a burden is lifted from my shoulders and I can finally achieve clarity. But, if you’re not like me, you could always watch a few episodes of Hoarders; if that doesn’t inspire you to get organized, I don’t know what will! Once you’ve found your motivation, be sure to try these simple tips on how to declutter your life.

How to Declutter Your Life

Fill one trash bag: This is a simple way to get started on tackling the mess. Every few months, I pick a room that needs to be purged and I make it my mission to fill one trash bag as quickly as I can with anything that needs to go.

Use the four boxes technique: In each room, create four separate bins that read “keep”, “toss”, “donate,” and “sell”. Every item within the space must go into one of these boxes–no exceptions! This will keep you accountable so you are actually forced to think about the purpose of each item.

Give everything a home: Live by the motto “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” This means that instead of using your dining table as a dumping ground for mail and various papers, create a home for these things like a designated “inbox” in a convenient place. Although tempting, try to resist creating a junk drawer as this will inevitably become a black hole where all of your pens, twisty ties and old birthday cards go to die. If a pen comes out from its holder, it MUST end up back there at the end of the day. This definitely takes some practice, but I promise it’s faster to do this than it is to start from square one every time!

Toss any duplicates and broken items: I know you think one day you’ll take the time to refinish that old desk or fix that broken lamp, but let’s be real. If that item was truly irreplaceable, you would have fixed it by now!

Follow the 6 month rule: If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you don’t need it. An application of this rule is the famous “closet trick,” in which you begin by turning all of your hangers in your closet to one direction. As you wear certain pieces, turn their hanger to the opposite direction. After six months, you’ll be able to clearly see what you should keep and what to discard.

How to Declutter Your Life

Everything in its place

Learn to say no: Decluttering your life is not just about your home or work space; these principles extend beyond the physical. Reduce your commitments to only the things that bring you joy and that you feel you can really give your all. Your personal time is sacred, and you need to guard it by learning to say no.

Clean up your digital life: Unsubscribe from obnoxious newsletters and spam, delete unused social media, and pare down your RSS feed. An easy trick to simplifying your desktop is to right click, choose “sort by,” then “date modified.” This will instantly organize your files from most recently used to least, which you can then use to determine which files go in the trash.

Learn to let go: This is easier said than done, but remember that material items are just things. I’m a sentimental type myself, and I tend to hoard wrinkled brochures from vacations or ticket stubs from a first date. But ultimately, these are just meaningless pieces of paper. Only my photos and memories from these moments are truly irreplaceable and worth keeping. You can also try to separate yourself from your nostalgia by trying simple psychological tricks; For example, when you pick up an item and you can’t decide what to do with it, ask yourself, “If I didn’t already own this lamp/statue/blouse, how much would I pay for it?” This way you can get a better understanding of the things that are truly of value to you.


Dumplings, what are your tips to reorganize and declutter your life? Share your ideas in the comments!

 Also by Sarah McEwing: Luxurious DIY Whipped Body Butter

How to Fight Fair with Your Partner

Related: 6 Ways Good Design Can Make You Happier

Best Sites to Organize Your Life



Photo: Rubbermaid Products via Flickr

Sarah is a freelance writer based out of Portland, Oregon. Her top three passions in life include her family, her husband, Geoff, and her pug, Rupert. She also enjoys spending her time volunteering, traveling, and experimenting with new recipes. Follow her on Pinterest.


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